An Overview of the Astrological System of the Grail Diagrams
John A. Gowan (revised Feb., 2009)
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(See also a description of the individual Sun Signs, spacetime section)
The Grail Diagram is derived partly from the diagonals of a square and partly from the symbol of the Christian cross. In this interpretation, the cross symbolizes the intersection of two conservation domains, the horizontal line representing the spiritual plane (or light and space), the vertical line representing the physical plane (or matter and time). The upper part of the Grail cup holds the clear water of the spirit, while the lower represents the physical world to which the spirit flows, becoming wine (blood). I also refer to this type of figure as an "hourglass" diagram.
Analysis of the Archetypes
(For the traditional interpretations of the Astrological Archetypes (Zodiac "Sun Signs"), I rely on the superb book by Isabelle M. Pagan. Of course, I add to these my own interpretations as informed by my General Systems work in physics.)
Isabelle M. Pagan, "From Pioneer to Poet", Theosophical Publishing House London LTD, 1969.
[Note: I use only the classical, "naked eye" planets in my astrological assignments, as these preserve the original meanings of the ancient, intuitive genius that devised the system of astrological archetypes. These are as follows, in 6 male-female pairs: 1) Sun = Leo, Moon = Cancer; 2) Jupiter = Sagittarius and Pisces; 3) Mars = Aries and Scorpio; 4) Mercury = Gemini and Virgo; 5) Venus = Libra and Taurus; 6) Saturn = Aquarius and Capricorn. If you think of these "planets" not as simple astronomical bodies, but as representing archetypes - similar to the Greek and Roman Gods named for them - you will be better able to appreciate how such symbols are used metaphorically in the following discussion.]
Spacetime "Grail" or "Hourglass" Diagrams
In the spacetime diagram, the upper triangle is the realm of light and space, structure and action in a nonmaterial metric. The biological, human correlates are intelligence (Sagittarius), language (Pisces), and action (Aries). The lower triangle represents energy, reproduction, and evolution (Leo, Cancer, Scorpio): living beings taking form through evolution.
Sagittarius ("the Sage") represents light and sight, the visual brain: logical, rational intelligence including foresight, insight, planning, visual creative imagination, and what we call "visionary intelligence" in our leaders. Pisces ("the Poet") represents space and "structure" (the "metric"), the ability to cast information in verbal and musical form: spoken language, song, music, poetry, literature, rhyme, rhythm, and counting. Thus as space is the conservation domain of light, so language and music are the conservation domains of thought and feeling.
Pisces represents music as well as language; music is the language of the emotions. Music is a more direct and primitive form of communication than verbal language; both have been raised to art forms by humans. Language is thought given communicable form; music is emotion given communicable form; both contain information. (In some metaphysical traditions, sound is allied with light as the fundamental creative force in the Universe, and indeed there is now scientific evidence that sound, in the form of shock and pressure waves, does play a major role in stellar, interstellar, and galactic processes, including star formation, the formation of galaxies in the early Universe, and even the organization of matter during the plasma phase of the "Creation Event", or "Big Bang").
At the center of the spacetime Grail diagram are the conjoined signs, Leo and Aries: Aries, representing electric charge, belongs to the upper triangle; Leo, representing the physical quantity "mass", momentum, and raw energy, belongs to the lower triangle. The pair are intimately related, in the same way that metabolic energy (Leo) is related to muscular activity (Aries). In physics, electric charge always accompanies mass, although often in opposite units that sum to electrical neutrality (as in neutrons). Electric charge, like the guardian angel with the flaming sword, stands between the upper spiritual realm of light and space, and the lower manifest realm of time, gravitation, and matter. Electric charge represents the symmetry differential between the state of free energy represented by light, and the state of bound energy represented by matter. This differential is expressed both as a difference in dimensionality, 2D vs 4D, and as a corresponding difference in the inertial status of free and bound energy: free energy has intrinsic motion in space (velocity c) but not in time (light's "clock" is stopped); bound energy has just the reverse - intrinsic motion in time (velocity T) but not in space. These intrinsic motions are the primordial entropy drives of light and matter, with the intrinsic motion of gravity ("velocity G") as the conservation force converting either entropy drive and domain to the other - space and the intrinsic motion of light to history and the intrinsic motion of time, or matter to light (as in the stars). "G" (the gravitational constant) is the entropy conversion gauge determining how much space must be annihilated per given mass (Gm) to produce matter's requisite historical entropy drive and time dimension:
-Gm(S) = T(m)
(See: "A Description of Gravitation".)
In order to pass from the upper to the lower realm, one must pass the guardian angel - acquiring electric charge in the downward path, suffering annihilation in the upward path, as matter is converted to light (for example, via the electrical annihilation of particle-antiparticle pairs). Manifestation downward from the realm of light and space requires more than the acquisition of electric charge, since this simply results in annihilation. Circumventing the electrical guardian requires additional charges and forces, the strong and weak forces of the Particle Grail diagram - but we will discuss these later.
In addition to functioning as the guardian of the gate between the manifest and unmanifest realms, Aries and the electric charge perform the all-important task of permitting communication between the two realms. Light will not interact with matter unless matter bears an electric charge; this is one of the functions of the electron shell of atoms, for example.
What are we to make of the fact that Leo the King is connected to the spiritual realm through Aries, the God of War? In the first place we should note that in this connection we see the origin of the notion of the (secular) King as a Divine representative - with a direct connection to God, and hence entitled to make life-and-death judgments upon his subjects. Secondly, we should note that through this connection comes the notion of a wrathful, omnipotent God of action who is also the Supreme Military Commander. Thirdly, we should look on the positive side of Aries, which also represents constructive action, energy, enterprise, good health, fitness, strength, exploration, athletics, sports, muscular activity, etc. Aries, from Hercules to Lancelot to Superman, can be the most positive of role models (defending Justice and the Oppressed!), representing not just social altruism but also the necessary defensive posture any system must take if it is to survive in this competitive world. Finally, there is the connection between a healthy mind and a healthy body: exercise benefits the brain - one of the most unpleasant consequences of illness is its effect upon the mind, extreme cases resulting in feverish delirium and hallucination.
Leo represents the physical quantity "mass" and momentum, which is the raw energy source for the Sun and stars. The Sun, Leo's ruling "planet", converts mass to light, bound energy to free energy, via the negentropic drive of gravity and the nucleosynthetic pathway of the electric, strong, and weak forces as they create the heavy elements of the periodic table.
As the Sun is the source of energy and the central organizing force of the Solar System, so is the secular King (social leader, chief) the central organizing force and source of energy for his domain. Leo represents energy above all else; for the Sun and Solar System this is mass, for the nation this is natural resources (including the Sun), for the society this is the economy, for the King and government it is taxes and the economic system, for the family it is money, jobs, and fuel, and for the body it is food and metabolic energy. The primary responsibility of the King is the economy; defense is second, conducted through Aries. The economy, economic system, and energy source (the "niche") is the central organizing fact of society - whether agricultural, industrial, technological, etc. How the society extracts energy from the environment and organizes its economy (capitalism, communism, socialism, etc.) are the central organizing realities of any nation. Leo is King because energy, in all its forms, is the single most important social issue. If we follow the Sun's example, we will learn how to burn hydrogen both chemically and in fusion reactors.
We will ideally achieve a universal "niche" in which we extract energy from our environment not by exploitation but by the judicious application of a comprehensive understanding of natural law - the goal of science. This niche will be "universal" because natural law is universal, and this universal niche will allow us to colonize our galaxy. Our first steps into space tell us that we are just beginning to realize this goal and fill this universal niche.
At the bottom of the spacetime diagram are Scorpio and Cancer, Scorpio representing the genetic, karmic cycle of death and evolution (posterity and ancestors), Cancer representing birth and reproduction, the mother, home, territoriality, and agriculture. In the physical system, Scorpio is time, which translates biologically into evolutionary time and the evolutionary process. This in turn depends upon reproduction and the cycle of generations, the old giving way through death to new evolved types. Hence the association of Scorpio with the karmic cycle of death, genetic inheritance, and legacies. Scorpio is the sign of the Physician, who places the evolutionary power itself into the hands of humanity, first through the selective breeding of domestic plants and animals, and now through biotechnology and genetic engineering.
The ruler of both Scorpio and Aries is Mars, the planet of action, competition, and war. Mars is the electric charge, the warrior with the thunderbolt. But Mars has many roles, as does electric charge. It is not only the forceful principle by which any system defends itself, it is also the life principle by which inanimate matter becomes energized and receptive to light. In its evolutionary form, Mars is both constructive and destructive - evolution could not proceed if nothing ever changed, or if nothing ever died. Sexual reproduction provides the mechanism of change, and death provides room and resources for new life. Competition and conflict weed out the unfit, selecting the new evolutionary pathway. Life is inherently forceful because it is motivated by biology's intrinsic motion: competition and evolution (and its necessary corollary, reproduction). Life tests itself against the winds of change, always moving, competing, cycling, dying, and being born again in new, evolved forms. The asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs allowed mammals to pursue their evolutionary course, a perfect example of the double-edged sword of Mars.
The intrinsic evolutionary motion of information systems toward greater complexity has, over geologic time, produced the self-maintaining, reproducing, and evolving forms we recognize as living beings. The physical roots of this process lie in the charges of matter, and their eternal search for their missing antimatter partners. These charges are a physical form of memory, and they produce forces which attempt to recreate in matter the original universal unity and connectivity of the light which produced them.
Cancer represents the mother, birth, reproduction, development, nurture, the home, the territory, agriculture, the place where life is nourished and grows. The ruler of Cancer is the Moon, which is really a proxy for the Earth, as both follow the same solar orbit. Cancer is our own Mother Earth, ruling the feminine breast, the source of nourishment for young life. Hence the Sun (Leo) and the Earth (Cancer) are the royal couple, the Sun providing energy and the Earth responding by evolving life.
Physically, Cancer represents gravitation. Gravity collects the mass of the Earth, providing us a place, a home, a territory in the Cosmos. Gravity orders the orbits of the planets - it is only through the feminine principle that Leo can accomplish his reproductive goal, warming a family of planets in the hope that at least one of them will bear life. In the physical system, gravity and time produce each other in an endless cycle; in the biological system, Cancer, representing the birth, nourishment, and growth of life, produces the grist for Scorpio's evolutionary mill. The reproductive cycle of Cancer is a necessary part of Scorpio's evolutionary cycle, the two signs interacting with each other on every plane.
The spacetime astrological diagram is the realm of personal, physical family life in the tradition of the Arthurian model of the royal family-state: king-queen-knight-sage (Leo, Cancer, Aries, Sagittarius), with Scorpio as Arthur's karmic (genetic) destiny, begun through the misadventures of his own begetting, and subsequently realized through the equally unfortunate conception of his own son, Mordred, who eventually kills him; Pisces serves as the narrator and court chronicler of the story. Much of the enduring popularity of the Arthurian legend lies in its embrace of this astrological, cosmic archetype.
(See also a description of the individual Sun Signs, particle section).
In the particle diagram, the upper triangle is the material realm of the "strong" and "weak" nuclear forces (the forces of fusion and fission). Whereas in the spacetime upper triangle the energy of light (Sagittarius) is given form (producing information) through language and music (Pisces), here the energy is already in the form of particles, which are further shaped by the hands of the mechanic and toolmaker (Virgo) and the abstract symbolic thought and transformations of the artist-shaman (Gemini). The intrinsic closeness of Virgo-Gemini is seen in the physicality of sculpture, the artisan, and the "down and dirty" or "hands-on" type of art practiced by many artists with a mechanical talent.
The particle diagram should be viewed as an enlarged or "exploded" view of the mass center of the spacetime diagram; this is the detail of the general term "mass", the specifically matter particles of which "mass" is composed. The particle diagram is a fractal iteration of the spacetime diagram. The planetary ruler of both Virgo and Gemini is Mercury, the messenger of Jupiter. Sagittarius and Pisces are both ruled by Jupiter, father of the Greco-Roman (and classical astrological) gods. Mercury bears messages from the realm of light to the realm of particles, inspiring the productions of Virgo and Gemini. The spacetime and particle diagrams are joined at their centers, in a crossed pattern I term the "Grail Flower". The realms of space and time should always be represented at right angles to each other, similarly to the linear cross of spirit and matter. (See also the 3-D form of this figure).
Direct inspiration in the creation of material forms comes through the power of the human mind to visualize an object (Sagittarius); but there is in addition a hand-eye connection which is a crucial part of the creative process. This is the realm of Virgo's "hands-on" creativity. The spirit flows from the eye (or mental eye) through the hand in a mysterious coordination which only the artist or inventor can fully experience and appreciate, if not understand. In the case of Gemini, the product may be a work of art, an idea, fantasy, or "spirit" clothed with form, or represented as a purely abstract symbol (writing, math, and musical notation). In the case of the practical Virgo, the product is a completed tool, invention, device, geometric figure, or other utilitarian, "rational" form. The evolutionary thrust is toward "ideal form" in either case.
The difference between Virgo the Inventor and Gemini the Artist-Shaman is the difference between body and mind: the mind is fancy-free, but the body has to be fed. Once the symbolic world of Gemini is discovered, however, it quickly takes on a life of its own, whether religious, artistic, economic, technical, or scientific, and soon demonstrates its practical utility. Leonardo Da Vinci is the supreme example of the combination of these two types of genius.
In human terms, the upper triangle of the particle diagram is the realm of abstract thought, whether utilitarian, symbolic, or fantastic. While neither visionary (in terms of foresight), nor verbal-musical, as in the spacetime figure, the source of inspiration for the upper triangles of both diagrams is the same - light in either its wave or particle form. To draw a clear distinction between the four aspects of mind in the top row of the Grail diagrams, we can simply designate their major sensory reference: Sagittarius the Sage refers to the visual mind, Pisces the Poet to the auditory mind, Virgo the Inventor to the manual mind, and Gemini the Artist to the abstracting, symbolic, or self-referential mind - the brain-mind.
In physics, Virgo is part of the mechanism of manifestation, the mass-carrier corresponding to the strong force and to the quarks and gluons which give light its particle form. Gemini is the principle of transformation, associated with the weak force and the leptons, neutrinos, and the Intermediate Vector Bosons (IVBs) - the W, Z, and X particles. The leptons (such as the electron and its neutrino) are elementary particles which act as alternative charge carriers for the quarks, and for other leptons. These alternative charge carriers allow particles to manifest without their antiparticle mates, since any conserved charges can be carried or balanced by the leptonic alternative charge carriers rather than by their antiparticles (the latter would simply cause a mutual annihilation reaction, and no particles could manifest). The alternative charge carriers allow the symmetry of particle-antiparticle pairs to be broken without violating charge conservation.
Hence, matter must have two fields to manifest - one to carry the mass (quarks), and the other to carry the charges (leptons), the latter in an alternative form (a form that is not antimatter). Thus by the "symbolic" means of alternative charge carriers, Gemini avoids the otherwise inevitable matter-antimatter annihilation reaction and performs the fundamental trick of the Magician-Shaman: creating and destroying particles (the materializing and vanishing act - "now you see it, now you don't"). (See also: "The Origin of Matter and Information").
Electrons are the alternative charge carriers for electric charge, while neutrinos are alternative charge carriers for "identity" or "number" charge. The neutrino is a pure or "bare" identity charge and is analogous to the concept of a personal, immortal, identity or "soul" in humans. Gemini clothes souls with bodies and provides bodies with souls, allowing both body and soul to manifest.
The abstracting and symbolizing mind of Gemini has made its greatest contribution to science and the information age through the development of symbolic notation for language, music, and mathematics, allowing us to write down our ideas, conserve them in books rather than in our memory, and communicate them to generations unborn and places far removed from our personal experience. Gemini is known as the "Twins" not only because of its ability to reflect upon itself, but also because of its ability to represent an object or idea with a symbol. One example of this aspect of Gemini is the Statue of Liberty, an immortal idea clothed in copper which has become our national symbol of a free state.
The prehistoric cave paintings of France (Lascaux, etc.) are archetypical examples of Gemini the Shaman-Artist practicing creation-magic. In the picture or statue of a bison, the shaman provides an alternative charge carrier for the animal's identity, which allows the real bison to manifest for the hunter. "In the beginning was the Word"; and to this day, the world of humanity continues to bring ideas into manifestation through the pathway of symbology.
Virgo's realm of practical utility and tool-making is related to Gemini's symbolic world through the Platonic concept of "Ideal Form". Geometry is the primary example of ideal form in its utilitarian mode, leading to mathematics (whose symbolic notation is provided by Gemini), science, technology, and architecture in the lower "particle" triangle. The discovery of geometry was initially considered sacred, a gift from the gods to be safeguarded (Pythagoras). Through geometry the quantitative relationships of ideal form were first revealed to humanity. Geometry is the basis of all higher mathematics, which has made possible the modern world. The power hidden within an ideal form is indeed godlike in its creative potential, in geometry no less than in atoms.
Libra ("the Jurist") is the third member of the upper triangle, representing the Judiciary and the Courts, the soul, the rights of the individual, the "citizen" and the family as a legal entity of the state, marriage and marriage law, social justice and equity, and the general interface between the Individual and the State.
Libra is represented by the number or "identity" charge, carried by neutrinos; as the leptonic alternative charge carrier of number or identity charge, neutrinos are necessary to the manifestation of unpaired "singlet" particles. Neutrinos constitute a sort of cosmic record or inventory of the number and kinds of elementary massive particles inhabiting spacetime at any given moment - much as governments keep track of the births and deaths of their citizens.
It is through the legal system and the courts that the individual and the family are legitimized or incorporated into the structure of the state as the "quantum units" of its population, named and numbered at birth, death, and by census, endowed with certain privileges and burdened with certain duties. By this means the state attempts to know and achieve control over the individual membership of its population, as well as regulate its overall size and reproductive behavior.
The lower triangle of the particle diagram consists of 1) Capricorn ("the Officer") : government, religion, the central social power establishing law and order; 2) Taurus ("the Builder"): the development of cities, commerce, industry; 3) Aquarius ("the Truth-Seeker"): information and communication systems of all types, including schools, universities, and science. The lower triangle represents the human struggle toward a social and material utopia. At the center of the diagram, ideal forms become utopian social institutions, courts of law and lawmaking governmental bodies (whether religious or secular), providing the structural mechanism for the conversion of "Divine law", or any perceived ideal behavioral protocol (utopian ethics, morals, duties), into human law and social order.
The central social structure of the particle Grail - the Judiciary and the government - is both conserving and restricting. Capricorn is ruled by the planet Saturn, renown for defining boundaries as symbolized by its system of rings: in astrological lore, Saturn is the planet of limitations in the sense of rules, laws, protocols, prescription and proscription. But Saturn simply represents the rules within which any game is "played"; the rules define the game - the rules are the game.
In the physical system, Capricorn is represented by the color charge, the charge of the strong force carried by the "gluon" field, binding together the quarks of a baryon and (in a secondary manifestation whose field vector is the meson) the "nucleons" (protons, neutrons) of the compound nuclei of the heavy elements. (See: "The Strong Force".)
Taurus is the architect and builder, representing the social penchant of man to cover the Earth with his constructions, cities, and highways. Great civilizations and societies are always marked by a characteristic architecture, a social statement of utopian architectural form. Taurus and Libra are both ruled by Venus, planet of harmony, balance, beauty - hence the law, the scales of justice, and the just proportions and balance of any significant architectural statement (especially in a government or religious building). The Taj Mahal is the archetypical example of this union.
In the physical system, Aquarius is the information system carried by the electron shell and the electron orbitals of the atom, while Taurus is the nucleus of the atoms of the elemental series, forming the massive foundation for the electron shell and its chemical interactions. (Note that this pair is not unlike the Virgo-Gemini pair in the upper triangle, especially in terms of "hardware" vs "software".) Translated into human social terms, the development of commerce, industry, and cities provides a foundation for the information industry of modern society, including our educational institutions and our sciences, our libraries, museums, the media and communications industry, including computers and the internet.
Whole Diagram Overview
Considering both diagrams, we see two power centers: the executive and the military (spacetime diagram), and the bureaucratic, parliamentary government and the judiciary (particle diagram). There is always tension between these four groups - the executive and military on one hand, parliament and the courts on the other - as to which combination will be dominant. There may in addition be a philosophical split between the secular and religious modes of government, which can result in two leaders, a secular king and a religious pope.
The struggle between these two power centers, the personal rule of a royal family, tyrant, or military dictator (spacetime diagram), and populist government, or rule by parliament and constitutional law (particle diagram), has gone through a dramatic evolution in modern times, favoring "power to the people". Nevertheless, the balance still swings back and forth between the two types, with communist countries curiously devolving into dictatorships (authoritarian social rule overwhelming family and individual freedoms - tyranny in the name of "the people"). Even our own democracy is not entirely immune, as charismatic personalities and families with ability and power establish dynasties exerting tremendous personal influence upon society - the Roosevelts, Rockefellers, and Kennedys come readily to mind, the "royalty" of America. Currently, the Bush and Clinton families are trying to join this elite group.
Modern forms of government have evolved away from personal rule and hereditary power toward social rule. Through a system of checks and balances, the personal power of the executive has been reduced, his term of office limited, nepotism curbed, and the military placed under civilian leadership. Church and State have been separated, the people are represented by parliament, the courts uphold constitutional law rather than the king's edicts, - in general, balancing the power between the structural centers of these diagrams, the "four forces" of government.
It remains a remarkable fact of human social organization that even in a nation of a billion citizens, the leadership of a single individual (symbolized here as the King) can be so important as to rank on a par with any other branch of government.
In general , the model functions as a classical cybernetic system involving inputs, thruputs, and outputs. The inputs are in terms of the unique human capacities of high general intelligence and visionary imagination (Sagittarius), language and music (Pisces), technology (Virgo), and abstract, symbolic thinking (Gemini). The thruputs are the central organizing structures of society, the executive, the military, the courts, and the parliamentary and bureaucratic branches of government. Finally, the outputs of the system are (optimistically) realized through our control of disease and the evolutionary process in Scorpio, a symbiotic mutualism with the Earth that protects and nourishes all Her species in Cancer, the acquisition and dissemination of information and knowledge more and more complete in Aquarius, and in Taurus, the "alabaster cities" of a world commerce, industry, and economy that provides a satisfactory standard of living for every individual.
It must be thoroughly understood that we all contain all the signs, centers, nodes, and points of the diagrams. In the organic view of the astrological system, each Sun Sign is assigned to an organ or part of the human body; we all have the same human bodies with all the same parts; we all contain the system entire. The differences between us are only matters of emphasis, areas of personal strengths and weakness, personal gifts and personal challenges in our evolutionary and developmental journey toward enlightenment.